Back to School: Back to Stress?
10 Simple Tips for decreasing stress this year
Sometimes heading back to school can be just as stressful a transition for moms and dads as it can be for kids and teens. Transitioning kids from fun, unstructured summer activities into the early-morning routine of carpools or bus schedules, nightly homework assignments, after-school curricular activities, and the consistent over-stimulation kids often experience in such busy environments, can create over-extended kids and stressed-out parents.
So, what are some ways to better manage the stress this year so that you can help your kids and teens navigate the oftentimes challenging transition back to school? Here are 10 simple tips to reduce stress for yourself, and your family.
1. Wake Up A Few Minutes Earlier
It can be helpful for parents to get up even just 15 minutes before kids to give yourself a little time for yourself. Read an article, make coffee, do some light stretching, take a few deep breaths, maybe even set an intention for your day. This will help you feel more ready to face the day ahead and feel more prepared to handle challenges.
2. Self Talk
When you notice things go awry or not as planned, take a deep breath and reassess the situation. Maybe you notice that your child's uniform is stained from the night before and you forgot to put it in the wash. Instead of automatically thinking "I'm the worst parent, of course I forgot to wash my child's uniform!" try this way of thinking about it: "Okay that happened. What can I do about it right now to make it better?" Maybe you'll realize you have a backup uniform or you have a sweatshirt that doesn't have the school's logo but can be substituted just for the day. We all make mistakes. Criticizing yourself harshly for making one or two when you're stressed out can have the negative effect of ruining the rest of your day rather than just accepting the problem, fixing it the best that you can, and moving on.
3. Maintain A daily Routine
This one can be a real challenge as your children transition back to school, but try to focus on setting a goal of scheduling meals, chores, bedtimes, and other family functions at regular hours so that your child knows what to expect each day. A consistent routine will help your child feel more secure and will help you feel more organized.
Getting enough sleep is essential for reducing stress. Your body uses your sleep time to heal and restore a better biochemical balance. This can be challenging, because often we simply don't get enough sleep and there isn't anything we can do about it. Try going to bed when your kids do just a few days a week, or switch some nights that you put the kids to bed with your co-parent if that is an available option. Remember to give yourself a break the next day if you wake up after a sleepless night. We've all been there! Don't expect to be Superparent the next morning and overextend yourself. Just focus on the essential tasks.
5. Let The Small Things Go
Don't stress about every issue or conflict with your child. Ask yourself, is this one really worth it? How do we most often learn the biggest lessons in life? Through our mistakes. Let your children make some mistakes and help them learn the lessons. Talk about what happened and why they made the choice they made. You may even laugh about that mistake later when it's clear that they understand what happened. This will help you move on together and connect with your child rather than create tension and more unnecessary stress. Remember, everyone is doing their best - that means you as a parent and your child or young adult.
6. Cut Back Your Schedule
A lot of the stress we feel comes from consistently over-extending ourselves. We often have good intentions to get the most out of a day and be productive, but every day is different and we're not going to have the same kind of energy all the time. Kids thrive on connection, so when you get too busy to just hang out and connect with them, they can often act out to get your attention. Focus on connection with your kids and strengthening your relationship with them. View everything else as extra or an added bonus. It's okay if your house is a little messy or you don't have a gourmet meal on the table every night of the week. Your kids want to spend quality time with you so let that be the goal.
7. Make A Gratitude List
Feeling hopeless or frustrated? Make a list of all the things in your life that you are grateful for - big and small. You'll start to notice the small things that really make a difference. When we start to look around, there truly are so many things that we take for granted every day. You can even start your early-morning routine by making this simple list. Research shows this practice reduces stress and improves health and happiness.
8. Figure Out Your Support System
We've all heard the phrase "If you're not taking care of yourself, how can you take care of others?" So, how do you take care of yourself when you need a break? Sometimes it's just not physically possible to do it all ourselves. We all need support, someone we can vent to who won't judge us or try to fix us. Talk to other parents with whom you feel comfortable and start building new friendships. Listen to parenting audios that soothe and inspire you. Find yourself a parenting coach with whom you can check in occasionally. Seek therapy to give yourself personal time to focus on your needs and emotional well-being. Don't be afraid that you will look bad by asking for help from others; it's part of being a responsible parent. What goes around comes around. If you ask for support from other parents at times, it's very likely that they will ask for your help in return in the future.
9. Stay Focused On You
These days with social media platforms making others' curated lives readily available to us via Facebook or Instagram, it's very easy to get wrapped up in comparing ourselves and our lives to others. Don't fall for this! When you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through other people's photos and newsfeeds and comparing your life to theirs, stop and remind yourself that this is a distraction from focusing on the important things in your life, like the present moment. In reality, we have no idea what's going on in someone else's life unless they share that information with us. Bring the focus back to you and what your reality is. Sometimes it can even be helpful to take a break from media use and focus on being present with yourself and others.
10. Take A Walk Outside
When things get too stressful, it can be helpful to change up your environment in order to clear your mind. This will help you make better decisions and can even help to shift your perspective. Getting some exercise, even 10-30 minutes of brisk walking, is proven to impact your mood in a positive way. So if you're feeling really stressed at home or at work, take a quick stroll around the block. You'll come back with a more grounded approach to solving the issue or stressful event.